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Updated: 9 hours 24 min ago

Give Input on Strategies to Enhance Physician-Scientist Training Through the Medical Scientist Training Program

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 10:46

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing the next generation of biomedical scientists through a variety of programs, including the M.D.-Ph.D. dual degree Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). This program provides Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant (T32) awards to medical institutions that are responsible for training physician scientists. The Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group Report [PDF, 6.2 MB] of NIH’s Advisory Committee to the Director highlighted the decline of physician scientists as a percentage of overall NIH principal investigators. NIH data presented at the 50th Anniversary Medical Scientist Training Program Symposium showed that while earlier cohorts of MSTP trainees were highly successful in achieving independent research careers and NIH grant support, more recent graduates have been less successful. Many factors may contribute to this difference, including lengthening of the post-M.D.-Ph.D. training period before achieving independence and increased competition of investigators for limited research funds and positions.

We are seeking input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups through a Request for Information (RFI) on strategies and ideas for the modernization of physician-scientist training that can be addressed through the MSTP.

More specific topics are included in the RFI, but examples of broad areas of interest are:

  • Trainees (e.g., time of recruitment to the MSTP, diversity of the applicant pool and selection criteria)
  • Financing/funding (e.g., how different M.D.-Ph.D. funding models influence the range of institutions that apply for MSTP support, the pool of trainees and the trainees’ commitment to research careers)
  • Dual-degree training (e.g., time-to-degree, integration of curriculum, training areas, mentoring and career advising)
  • NIGMS management of MSTP grants (e.g., size, number and distribution of training programs; evaluation of outcomes; and peer review)
  • Anything else specific to MSTP training that you feel is important for NIH to consider with respect to enhancing M.D.-Ph.D. training and the persistence of physician-scientist trainees in research careers (note that changes in post-M.D.-Ph.D. training and future research support are outside of the scope of this RFI)

Responses can be submitted via an online form and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is August 9, 2017.

Students ‘Build’ Connections and More at Scientific Conferences

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 14:59

For students in the biomedical sciences, attending conferences is a chance to share ideas and research experiences with colleagues from across the country, while learning about educational and career opportunities and building identities as scientists. Outcomes from student conference attendance may also help us to learn how students build and maintain scientific identities. At conferences over the past two years, we have witnessed undergraduate trainees from the more recently-established Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) program joining colleagues from long-running NIGMS-supported grants, like Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) and Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC).

Since BUILD is a fairly new program, it’s been great to see how quickly its trainees have embraced the opportunities conferences have to offer, from simply meeting other program trainees and sharing stories about their research to making valuable networking connections. BUILD, established in 2014, is a component of the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC), which also includes the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC). The DPC is part of a broad, trans-NIH strategy to address new ways to promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce.

In recent years, BUILD trainees have been in high attendance at the NIGMS-supported Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) . These conferences focus on broadening participation in biomedical research and introduce students to groundbreaking scientists.

During the BUILD networking sessions at both meetings, we heard students’ stories about their research and programs. We also had the opportunity to witness an element of students developing scientific identities—trading business cards.

Many BUILD students also made presentations on their research at the 2016 SACNAS and ABRCMS meetings, and eight of them received awards for posters and oral presentations. These awards are based on a variety of criteria, including knowledge of a subject area as well as experimental design. Because the DPC’s BUILD programs introduce undergraduate students to research through hands-on lab experience, it’s great to see that students are sharing their research findings, taking part in poster sessions and being recognized for their efforts.

Students’ interactions during networking sessions and scientific presentations complement another DPC goal: providing role models and mentors to students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Because evaluating program outcomes is integral to the DPC, we are evaluating whether these kinds of interactions help students persist in science careers and develop identities as scientists. It is our hope that what we learn from DPC interventions—such as promoting conference attendance among students—can be scaled to fit a larger audience and benefit students in other training programs.

Early Career Scientist Shares Her Passion for Basic Research, Mentoring and More

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:49

I recently sat down with NIGMS-funded early career scientist Namandjé Bumpus to talk about her research and career path. Questions came from undergraduates across the country, including Thorne Varier in the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. I invite you to watch the archived videocast and share it with students and postdocs in your labs and departments.

The Q&A was part of the Second Annual Early Investigator Lecture for Undergraduate Students. We launched the lecture series last year to highlight the achievements of our early career grantees and encourage students to pursue biomedical research careers.

Namandjé, an associate professor in the department of medicine, division of clinical pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, started with a scientific presentation that walked us through her research investigating the mechanisms involved in HIV drug activation and metabolism. She also described an exciting new project that involves genotyping people to identify genetic variations that may also influence these processes. Then, during our conversation, she talked about when she knew she wanted to be a scientist (a professional society played a major role), how mentors have supported her along the way, what she would have done differently and why basic research is so important for medical advances. Some other highlights from the lecture are on Twitter (#ecilecture).

Much of what Namandjé shared relates to scientists at any career stage. I hope you and your trainees find the lecture as inspiring as I did.

During the 2017 NIGMS Director’s Early Career Investigator Lecture, Namandjé Bumpus discussed her research on drug metabolism (left), answered questions about her career path (middle) and met with undergraduate students (right).
Credit: Christa Reynolds and Emily Carlson, NIGMS.

A Historical Analysis of NIGMS Early Stage Investigators’ Awards and Funding

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:13

One question that has been asked about the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) for Early Stage Investigators is how awardees will be affected by the fact that they cannot have additional NIGMS research grants. In response to this question, we reviewed the research project grant (RPG) funding history of all 707 Principal Investigators (PIs) who received an NIGMS R01 as an Early Stage Investigator (ESI) between Fiscal Years 2009 and 2015. The PIs were grouped by Year of PI, which ranges from Year 1 to Year 5 (five years is the typical length of an ESI R01 award). Year 1 is the year in which the PI was awarded his or her initial R01, and Year 2-Year 5 represent the subsequent years. The awards and funding history of each PI were confined to Fiscal Years 2009-2015; thus, all PIs are included in the Year 1 group, while those who received their initial R01 in 2013, for example, would only appear in the Year 1-Year 3 groups.

The distribution of NIGMS awards (including subprojects) for these PIs is depicted below.


View larger image Figure 1. Percentage of Principal Investigators by Number of Active NIGMS Awards. Year 1 represents the year of the initial NIGMS R01; Year 2-Year 5 represent the subsequent years. Only Fiscal Years 2009-2015 are included. No PIs had more than three active NIGMS awards in a single year.

Adding up the percentages of PIs with two and three awards, Figure 1 shows that the percentage of PIs with more than one active NIGMS award ranges from 2.8% in Year 1 to 13.9% in Year 5.

The NIGMS funding distribution of these PIs is depicted below; it includes administrative supplements. Figure 2 also shows the 2016 ESI MIRA funding distribution for comparison.


View larger image Figure 2. Percentage of Principal Investigators by NIGMS Funding. Year 1 represents the year of the initial NIGMS R01; Year 2-Year 5 represent the subsequent years. Only Fiscal Years 2009-2015 are included. 2016 ESI MIRA represents the NIGMS funding of PIs who received an NIGMS ESI MIRA in 2016.

Figure 2 shows that the percentage of PIs with more than $250,000 in NIGMS funding ranges from 8.9% in Year 1 to 18.2% in Year 5. Figure 2 also shows that 2016 ESI MIRA recipients (who all received $250,000 or less in NIGMS funding) had a much higher probability of receiving between $200,000 and $250,000 in NIGMS funding than non-MIRA PIs who received $250,000 or less in NIGMS funding.

Combining the data used to generate the previous two figures reveals that the percentage of PIs with both one or fewer active NIGMS awards and $250,000 or less in NIGMS funding ranges from 91.1% in Year 1 to 81.9% in Year 5. The data also show that 77% of the PIs had one or fewer active NIGMS awards and $250,000 or less in NIGMS funding in all years.

Taken together, the above data imply that the majority of NIGMS ESI awardees will not be negatively affected by the ESI MIRA requirement of having only one NIGMS grant for a maximum of $250,000 in direct costs per year. Furthermore, a majority of ESIs may actually benefit from the high probability of receiving between $200,000 and $250,000 in NIGMS funding as an ESI MIRA recipient (in fact, 50% of 2016 ESI MIRA recipients received the maximum amount). We also hope that ESIs will benefit from the enhanced research flexibility of the MIRA program, as well as the planned increase in funding stability. We will continue to monitor the progress of the ESI MIRA program carefully to ensure that it is meeting the program’s objectives and enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the biomedical research enterprise.

Beware the New NIH Appendix Policy and How to Navigate the Changes

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 13:24

Trying to navigate changes in NIH grant application policy can be a daunting task. Moreover, when these policy changes bypass the radar of applicants, the result can be an unwelcome outcome. This was the case most recently for many grant applicants who did not follow the new NIH policy limiting the types of appendix materials allowed for applications with due dates on or after January 25, 2017. This policy was first advertised last August to allow sufficient time for applicants to absorb the change. Unfortunately, many of the grant applications assigned to NIGMS came in for the January 25 receipt date with non-compliant appendix materials, resulting in their withdrawal by NIH. We at NIGMS are very aware of the pain and frustration felt by applicants and institutional authorized officials when applications are withdrawn. In the hope of minimizing the number of withdrawals due to non-compliant appendices for upcoming receipt dates, here are some important reminders:

  1. Under the new policy, almost nothing is allowed as appendix material unless specifically requested in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
  2. The few remaining materials that are still allowed are very specialized and do not apply to most FOAs.
  3. If the FOA you apply for is one that does allow or specifically requests certain types of appendix materials, be sure to include only what is allowed. If you include any additional materials, your application will be considered non-compliant and will almost certainly be withdrawn.
  4. Do not use application sections that have unrestricted page limits (e.g., the Other Attachments section) as a surrogate location for appendix materials that are no longer allowed because this also will result in your application being withdrawn as non-compliant.
  5. Lastly, be sure you are reading the most up-to-date versions of the FOA and SF424 instructions, as the materials that are and are not allowed in an application may have changed from previous versions.

One of the best resources to help you stay on top of new and upcoming changes is the Notices of NIH Policy Changes on the Office of Extramural Research website—please check this site frequently. And, as always, NIGMS program and review staff are available to answer any questions.

Webinar for Students and Fellows Interested in NIGMS’ Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 11:15

UPDATE: The video and slides from the PRAT Program webinar have been posted.

We’re hosting a webinar for potential applicants to the PRAT Program on Tuesday, March 28, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. EDT. PRAT is a three-year program providing outstanding laboratory research experiences in NIH’s Intramural Research Program (IRP), access to NIH’s extensive resources, mentorship, career development activities and networking. The program places special emphasis on training fellows in basic biomedical research areas including cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, computational biology, immunology, neuroscience, technology development and bioinformatics.

The next receipt date for applications is October 3, 2017.  Applicants can be graduate students considering postdoctoral research opportunities or postdoctoral fellows with no more than two years of postdoctoral research experience by the time of appointment to the PRAT program (late summer 2018). All applications require connecting with an investigator in the NIH IRP in advance of writing the application.

To attend the webinar, join the Skype meeting shortly before 12:00 p.m. EDT and enter the conference ID 8368072. You can also attend by phone by calling 301-480-4255. Slides will be posted on the PRAT website following the event.

We look forward to talking with you about the PRAT Program.

NIH Staff Participating in March 28 Webinar

Jessica Faupel-Badger, Director, NIGMS PRAT Program

Kenneth Gibbs, Program Director, NIGMS

Erika Ginsburg, NCI Authorized Organization Representative/Signing Official

Second Annual Early Career Investigator Lecture for Undergraduate Students

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:15

Last year, we launched the NIGMS Director’s Early Career Investigator Lecture series. Open to everyone in the scientific community, the lectures are directed at undergraduate students to introduce them to cutting-edge science while inspiring them to pursue biomedical research careers. The series also highlights the achievements of some of NIGMS’ early career grantees.

I’m excited to share that the 2017 lecture will be presented by Namandjé Bumpus, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine-division of clinical pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Namandjé is an NIGMS-funded recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Her lecture, “Drug Metabolism, Pharmacogenetics and the Quest to Personalize HIV Treatment and Prevention,” will take place on the NIH campus on Wednesday, April 5, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT. It will be videocast and archived on the NIH videocasting site.

Namandjé will describe her work examining the metabolism and distribution of antiretroviral drugs and their effects on cellular signaling pathways. She hopes that through a clearer understanding of these processes in cells and tissues, we can move toward predicting drug responses in a given person. After her talk, Namandjé will participate in a 30-minute question-and-answer session about her research and career path.

I hope you will encourage your students to watch the lecture and send in their questions for Namandjé. They can email them or tweet them using #ecilecture by March 29. They can also check out the inaugural lecture by Blake Wiedenheft, Ph.D., on “Bacteria, Their Viruses, and How They Taught Us to Perform Genome Surgery.”

Transfer of Science Education Partnership Awards to NIGMS

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 10:23

I’m pleased to announce that NIGMS is the new home for the Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA). These awards, which were transferred from NIH’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, support research and educational activities that complement other workforce diversity and training programs within NIH mission areas. The change will allow the SEPA program to be better integrated with other NIGMS capacity-building and research training programs and will increase opportunities for synergies between them.

The SEPA program promotes partnerships between biomedical and clinical researchers and pre-kindergarten to grade 12 teachers and schools, museums and science centers, and other educational organizations. In addition, the program provides students from underserved communities with opportunities to learn about research careers; supplies teachers with professional development in science content and teaching skills; and improves community health and science literacy through its science centers and museum exhibits.

SEPA will be housed in our Center for Research Capacity Building (CRCB), which supports research, research training, faculty development and research infrastructure improvements in states that historically have not received significant levels of research funding from NIH. It also supports faculty research development at institutions that have a historical mission focused on serving students from underrepresented groups.

We do not plan to alter the mission or goals of SEPA as a result of the transfer, and the program will continue to be administered by Tony Beck, who has served as its program director since 2001.

If you have any questions about the transfer, please contact Tony Beck or Fred Taylor, acting director of CRCB.

Funding Opportunity to Develop Cryo-EM Online Instructional Materials

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 15:10

In addition to the currently active funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for national cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) centers, NIH has issued an FOA for research education program grants for cryo-EM curriculum development. Both FOAs are part of a new NIH/Office of Strategic Coordination Common Fund program being led by NIGMS and the National Eye Institute (NEI).

The research education grants will support investigator-driven development and dissemination of online educational materials, such as video-based tutorials, novel self-paced learning approaches and computer-based educational tools, to instruct biomedical researchers in the application of cryo-EM techniques, theory and analysis. Techniques include cryo-EM single particle analysis and cryo-electron tomography. Applications are due by July 25, 2017, with optional letters of intent due one month earlier.

If you have questions about the research education grants announcement, please email NEI’s Houmam Araj or call him at 301-451-2020. Please also help us get the word out by letting your community know of this opportunity.

Stable Success Rates and Other Funding Trends in Fiscal Year 2016

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 15:47

NIGMS is committed to ensuring that taxpayers get the best possible returns on their investments in fundamental biomedical research. As part of an NIH-wide commitment to enhancing stewardship, we regularly monitor trends in the Institute’s funding portfolio.

One of the most commonly cited metrics when discussing grants is success rate, calculated as the number of applications funded divided by the number of applications reviewed. As shown in Figure 1, the success rate for NIGMS research project grants (RPGs) was 29.6% in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the same as it was in FY 2015. Although we funded a record number of competing RPGs in FY 2016, we also received more applications than in FY 2015, leading to a level success rate. The first applications and grants for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) (R35) program are included in the FY 2016 RPG counts. The increase in RPG applications in FY 2016 has reversed the downward trend noted in last year’s analysis.


View larger image Figure 1. Number of NIGMS Competing RPG Applications, Number of Funded Competing RPGs and Success Rates for RPGs, Fiscal Years 2005-2016. NIGMS RPG applications (blue circles, dashed line; left axis) increased from FY 2015-2016. NIGMS-funded RPGs (green squares, solid line; left axis) also increased from FY 2015-2016. Consequently, the NIGMS RPG success rate (gray triangles, dotted line; right axis) remained unchanged from FY 2015. The dip in success rate in FY 2013 was due in part to the budget sequester.

An alternative measure of the performance of our funding strategies and the health of our portfolio is the “cumulative investigator rate,” which indicates the proportion of investigators actively seeking funding who had at least one NIGMS grant in a given fiscal year. Figure 2 shows the number of investigators seeking NIGMS support increased by 40% between FY 2004-2014, but the number of NIGMS-funded principal investigators (PIs) remained relatively unchanged over that same period. As a result, the cumulative investigator rate steadily decreased. More recently, the cumulative investigator rate has increased slightly, as the number of applicants seeking support in FY 2013-2016 has stabilized and the number of PIs receiving support during this same period has grown by 10%.


View larger image Figure 2. Number of NIGMS R01 Applicants, Number of Awardees and Cumulative Investigator Rates, Fiscal Years 2004-2016. The number of NIGMS R01 and R35 applicants (blue circles, dashed line; left axis) increased steadily from FY 2004-2014 but has stabilized more recently. The NIGMS R01 and R35 awardee counts (green squares, solid line; left axis) remained relatively stable from FY 2004-2014 and have increased somewhat over the past two years. Consequently, the NIGMS cumulative investigator rate (gray triangles, dotted line; right axis) declined from FY 2004-2014 but has begun to increase since then.

As noted above, changes in the numbers of both competing applications and awards influence our success rate. The number of competing applications submitted is primarily driven by the research community, while the number of funded competing grants is affected by our funding policies, budget and existing commitments to active grants. As stated in our 2015 strategic plan, we have been making efforts to bolster support for investigator-initiated research through careful consideration of our portfolio and funding policies.

We’ve mentioned in previous funding trends posts that NIGMS does not use a strict percentile cutoff (“payline”) to make funding decisions. Instead, we take a variety of factors into account, including peer review scores, summary statements and reviews, the relevance of the research area to the Institute’s mission, overall portfolio diversity and an applicant’s other research support. The funding curves in Figure 3 show a significant number of applications each year are in the “fundable” range. In FY 2016, for example, NIGMS funded approximately 50% of applications that scored at the 24th percentile. This marks a drop from the 26th percentile in FY 2015, but it is higher than in any of the previous three years. Figure 4 displays the substantial percentile range of funded NIGMS competing R01s. It does not reflect data from the MIRA program, which is still in its early phases. NIGMS has been carefully monitoring the MIRA program and communicating its findings in separate Feedback Loop posts.


View larger image Figure 3. Percentage of Applications Funded Within Each Percentile for NIGMS Competing R01 Applications, Fiscal Years 2012-2016. The percentile at which 50% of the applications were funded in FY 2016 (solid green line) is near the 24th percentile, as compared with the 26th percentile in FY 2015 (long-dashed blue line) and the 22nd percentile in FY 2014 (medium-dashed yellow line). FY 2016 had a lower proportion of funded applications below the 10th percentile.
View larger image Figure 4. Funding Distribution of NIGMS Competing R01 Applications by Percentile, Fiscal Year 2016. Funded grants (solid green bars) generally follow the funding curve pattern demonstrated in Figure 3, with unfunded applications (dashed black-and-white bars) constituting the remainder of the overall uniform distribution of application percentiles.

NIGMS is currently operating under a continuing resolution through April 28, meaning that the Institute’s budget is at a level similar to what it was in FY 2016. If the budget is flat for the remainder of FY 2017, we do not anticipate being able to maintain a success rate for RPGs as high as it has been over the past two years. However, as mentioned in last year’s funding trends post, NIGMS pursued a strategy in FY 2016 that included funding a balance of long-term and short-term awards. Because the funds from these short-term awards became available again this year, NIGMS should be able to support more competing grants in FY 2017 than would have been possible had we not implemented this funding strategy in FY 2016.

Moving forward, we will continue to use every available analytical tool to ensure that we maximize returns on the taxpayers’ investments by supporting a vibrant and diverse portfolio of outstanding fundamental biomedical research.

Early Notice: New NIGMS Institutional Predoctoral Training Grant Funding Opportunity Announcement

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 16:21

The NIGMS T32 presentation at the January 2017 Advisory Council meeting begins at 1:43:07.

At the recent NIGMS Advisory Council meeting, the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity requested, and received, approval to write a new predoctoral T32 funding opportunity announcement (FOA), specifically tailored for predoctoral graduate programs in the basic sciences and designed to help catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education. The goal is to enable the community to develop and implement innovative approaches to education and mentoring that will more effectively and efficiently train future generations of outstanding biomedical researchers, and will allow graduate education to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the biomedical research enterprise. Taking into account the feedback we have received from various stakeholders over the past year, the new FOA will:

  • Emphasize the development of a diverse pool of exceptionally well-trained scientists;
  • Focus on skills development, rigor and reproducibility, inclusive and supportive training environments, and responsible conduct;
  • Address conflicts in the incentive structure of the research enterprise that adversely impact biomedical graduate education;
  • Encourage the use and dissemination of evidence-based, innovative educational and mentoring practices;
  • Emphasize improvements in career preparation (broadly defined), and dissemination of career outcomes on publicly available sites.

The intention is not to layer additional activities onto existing structures. Instead, this funding announcement is designed to allow for a creative reinvention of biomedical graduate education that preserves the best elements, while enhancing the focus on the development of research and professional skills by trainees.

We expect to issue the new T32 FOA this fall and to receive the first applications in May 2018. The new FOA will apply to all NIGMS predoctoral T32 training grants, except for the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which will remain on the parent T32 announcement for now. We plan in the future to develop a parallel FOA that is specific for the goals of the MSTP.

We encourage the community to watch the presentation at our Council meeting and view the slide deck. As always, we welcome your input and feedback on these plans. You can post your comments below.

Webinar for RISE Program Applicants

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 13:30

UPDATE: The slides from the RISE Program Applicants webinar have been posted.

If you’re preparing an institutional RISE grant application, you might have questions about the funding opportunity announcement and data tables required for the upcoming May 25 receipt date. We’ll be available to discuss these topics during a webinar on Thursday, April 6, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. EDT. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter meeting number 624 498 694 and the password “RISE2017.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-877-668-4493 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you about the RISE program.

NIGMS Staff Participating in April 6 Webinar

Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity:

Anissa Brown, Program Director

Luis Cubano, Program Director

Shiva Singh, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch Chief

Office of Scientific Review:

Rebecca Johnson, Scientific Review Officer

Division of Extramural Activities:

Susan South, Grants Management Specialist